Overcoming the critical issue of private care exclusion in Canada’s child-care system

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sits with children at a local child care centre in Ottawa, Wednesday, March 29, 2023. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press.

“Canada’s Child Care Conundrum: The Challenges and Controversies of Bill C-35”

When the Senate deliberated on Bill C-35, An Act respecting Early Learning and Child Care in Canada, they heard from nearly 60 witnesses. The resulting committee report was concise and direct, but the final sentence raised an important point that continues to be a hurdle in establishing an accessible, affordable, and high-quality child care system in the country.

The Unfortunate Exclusion
The report recommended that agreements with provinces and territories focus on creating a high-quality public early learning and child care system, calling into question the continued inclusion of private child care. Despite this, data from Statistics Canada shows that only about a third of families using non-parental care use the type of child care funded by the federal-provincial agreements. This raises concerns about the exclusion of many Canadians from the national daycare system, creating a divide that affects parents and caregivers across the country.

The Impact on Private Child Care
While the agreements pay lip service to private care, the reality is that they hinder the ability of private child care providers to flourish. Specific requirements and limitations that come with the agreements create financial strain for smaller private providers, making it difficult for them to meet the demands placed upon them by the government.

The Quality Debate
There is a common perception that not-for-profit child care offers superior quality, but the government’s assault on private child care providers is causing for-profit entities to shift to not-for-profit models. The shift in focus from for-profit to not-for-profit services raises questions about the actual impact on child care quality and challenges the prevailing orthodoxy in child-care research.

The Road Ahead
The ongoing debate over accessibility, affordability, and quality of child care has created a conundrum that presents a challenge for policymakers, advocates, and caregivers alike. With the deadline for renegotiation of the agreements approaching in 2026, there is hope for a potential course correction. For many families and caregivers, the need for change cannot come soon enough.

In conclusion, the issues surrounding Canada’s child care system highlight the complexities and controversies that exist within the realm of early learning and child care. By acknowledging the perspectives of various stakeholders and considering the impact of policy decisions on all forms of child care, there is an opportunity to create a more inclusive, accessible, and high-quality child care system that meets the needs of all Canadians. It is time for policymakers and advocates to come together to address the challenges and work towards a system that benefits families, parents, and caregivers across the country.



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